Saturday, June 29, 2013

Countdown to Gettysburg: June 30th 1863 -- Tillie Pierce Witnesses General Buford's Cavalry Arrive in Gettysburg

  Tillie Pierce witnessed the arrival of the first Union soldiers at Gettysburg on Tuesday, June 30:

  A great number of Union cavalry began to arrive in the town. They passed northwardly along Washington Street, turned toward the west on reaching Chambersburg Street, and passed out in the direction of the Theological Seminary. It was to me a novel and grand sight. I had never seen so many soldiers at one time. They were Union soldiers and that was enough for me, for I then knew we had protection, and I felt they were our dearest friends. I afterwards learned that these men were Buford’s cavalry, numbering about six thousand men.

Tillie Pierce, age 15 in 1863

  A crowd of “us girls” were standing on the corner of Washington and High Streets as these soldiers passed by. Desiring to encourage them, who, as we were told, would before long be in battle, my sister started to sing the old war song “Our Union Forever.” As some of us did not know the whole of the piece we kept repeating the chorus.

  A little less than Tillie’s estimate, Buford had just under 3,000 men in his command and a battery of six cannon. Daniel Skelly also watched on Chambersburg Street as thousands of cavalry rode through town and thought, “Surely now we were safe and the Confederate army would never reach Gettysburg . . . General Buford sat on his horse in the street in front of me, entirely alone, facing to the west in profound thought . . . It was the only time I ever saw the general and his calm demeanor and soldierly appearance . . . made a deep impression on me.”

Daniel Skelly, age 18 in 1863

  General Buford was a West Point graduate and a veteran of the early fighting against the Sioux Indians in Texas. In 1862, Buford had fought at Second Bull Run and Antietam. At Brandy Station he commanded a division of cavalry against Stuart’s troopers. His experience was about to prove invaluable over the next three days. As he moved his troopers into the open fields north of Gettysburg they encountered Confederate soldiers in Brigadier General James Pettigrew’s brigade sent to Gettysburg for supplies. Under strict orders not to bring on a fight, the rebels fell back to Cashtown and reported their discovery of Union cavalry occupying Gettysburg.

Brigadier General John Buford

  Buford sent scouts in all directions to locate and identify what enemy units were in front of him. He knew what was at stake. A half mile behind them, just outside the town, was a low ridgeline called Cemetery Hill. At each end of that ridge were larger hills: Culp’s Hill to the north and two hills at the southern end named Little and Big Round Top. It was well known that in any battle, whoever controlled the high ground possessed a great advantage over an attacking force. Buford knew he had
to delay Lee’s army long enough for the Union infantry to reinforce him and protect those heights, so he deployed his men in a series of two defensive lines centered along a wooded hill north of Gettysburg named McPherson’s Ridge.
  At 10:30 pm he sent a message to Major General John F. Reynolds, who commanded three of the infantry corps that were approaching Gettysburg from the east. He reported that Hill’s entire corps was at Cashtown, nine miles away to the west. Enemy pickets were in sight of his own along the Chambersburg Pike. Longstreet’s corps was behind Hill’s, perhaps by a day’s march. A captured enemy courier told him that Ewell’s corps was advancing toward Gettysburg from Carlisle from the north.

Major General John Fulton Reynolds

  Buford knew that by morning he would face an entire rebel corps of 25,000 men. By all accounts, Buford saw that Lee was concentrating his whole army at Gettysburg. If Ewell’s corps made it to the town by the next day, two thirds of Lee’s army—50,000 soldiers—would advance against whatever Union forces could reach Gettysburg in time. When one of his brigade commanders spoke confidently of whipping any rebels the next day, Buford said, “No, you won’t. They will attack you in the morning; and they will come ‘booming’—skirmishers three deep. You will have to fight like the devil to hold your own until supports arrive.”

(to be continued...) 
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Countdown to Gettysburg: June 29th 1863 -- Lee and Meade Advance Towards Gettysburg

  On June 29th both Lee and Meade gave orders for their armies to advance towards Gettysburg, a town where ten major roads converged like the wheels of a wagon in every direction. The 2,400 people of Gettysburg had no idea that two armies totaling over 150,000 men were converging for battle at their doorstep. 

Major General George Gordon Meade
  As Meade took command on June 28, intelligence on Lee’s army became clearer. Spies in Hagerstown, Maryland, estimated the enemy’s strength at 80,000 men and 275 cannons. Meade knew Lee had sent Ewell’s corps north to York and Carlisle while Longstreet’s and Hill’s troops remained in the vicinity of Chambersburg. Orders were given to keep the Federal army marching northwest from Frederick to Taneytown, where Meade set up his headquarters. To screen the advance of the army, Brigadier General John Buford was ordered to take two brigades of cavalry into Gettysburg and defend the town if attacked. 

General Robert Edward Lee
  Lee began moving his army east toward Gettysburg on Monday the 29th, with Hill’s Third Corps camping in Cashtown for the night. Longstreet’s First Corps would follow on the 30th as far as Greenwoood, and Ewell’s Second Corps would march south from Carlisle. Major General Henry Heth, commanding the lead division of Hill’s corps, ordered a brigade to Gettysburg on the 30th to find supplies, especially shoes, for his ill-equipped soldiers. 

Major General Henry Heth
  Thus, by Tuesday, June 30, the Union and Confederate armies were on a collision course toward Gettysburg. Meade had only been in command of his army for two days; his troops were stretched out along the roads from Frederick— hot and exhausted from hard marching. He was about to face the legendary Robert E. Lee in what could be the decisive battle of the war. Yet Meade did have one precious advantage over Lee—he knew where his enemy was, while Lee, without cavalry, was advancing blindly. 

Gettysburg resident Daniel Skelly age 18 in 1863
  Daniel Skelly recalled the growing tension among the people of Gettysburg: “The 28th and 29th were exciting days in Gettysburg for we knew the Confederate army, or a part of it at least, was within a few miles of our town and at night we could see from the house-tops the campfires in the mountains eight miles west of us. We expected it to march into our town at any moment and we had no information as to the whereabouts of the Army of the Potomac.”

(to be continued...)

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Countdown to Gettysburg: June 27th 6:00 PM -- Arthur Framantle Enters Chambersburg with Hood's Division

  27th June, Saturday.--  I entered Chambersburg at 6 P. M. This is a town of some size and importance. All its houses were shut up; but the natives were in the streets, or at the upper windows, looking in a scowling and bewildered manner at the Confederate troops, who were marching gayly past to the tune of Dixie's Land. The women (many of whom were pretty and well dressed) were particularly sour and disagreeable in their remarks. I heard one of them say, "Look at Pharaoh's army going to the Red Sea." Others were pointing and laughing at Hood's ragged Jacks, who were passing at the time. 

Major General John Bell Hood

  This division, well known for its fighting qualities, is composed of Texans, Alabamians, and Arkansians, and they certainly are a queer lot to look at. They carry less than any other troops; many of them have only got an old piece of carpet or rug as baggage; many have discarded their shoes in the mud; all are ragged and dirty, but full of good humor and confidence in themselves and in their general, Hood. They answered the numerous taunts of the Chambersburg ladies with cheers and laughter. One female had seen fit to adorn her ample bosom with a huge Yankee flag, and she stood at the door of her house, her countenance expressing the greatest contempt for the hare-footed Rebs; several companies passed her without taking any notice; but at length a Texan gravely remarked, "Take care, madam, for Hood's boys are great at storming breastworks, when the Yankee colors is on them." After this speech the patriotic lady beat a precipitate retreat.

Chambersburg, Pennsylvania 1863
  Sentries were placed at the doors of all the principal houses, and the town was cleared of all but the military passing through or on duty. Some of the troops marched straight through the town, and bivouacked on the Carlisle road. Others turned off to the right and occupied the Gettysburg turnpike. I found Generals Lee and Longstreet encamped on the latter road, three-quarters of a mile from the town.

Lieutenant General James Longstreet
 General Longstreet and his staff at once received me into their mess, and I was introduced to Major Fairfax, Major Latrobe, and Captain Rogers of his personal staff; also to Major Moses, the Chief Commissary, whose tent I am to share. He is the most jovial, amusing, clever son of Israel I ever had the good fortune to meet. The other officers of Longstreet's headquarter staff are Colonel Sorrell, Lieutenant Colonel Manning, (ordnance officer,) Major Walton, Captain Goree, and Major Clark, all excellent good fellows, and most hospitable.

   Having lived at the headquarters of all the principal Confederate Generals, I am able to affirm that the relation between their staffs and themselves, and the way the duty is carried on, is very similar to what it is in the British army. All the Generals--Johnston, Bragg, Polk, Hardee, Longstreet, and Lee--are through soldiers, and their staffs are composed of gentlemen of position and education, who have now been trained into excellent and zealous staff officers.

  Major Moses tells me that his orders are to open the stores in Chambersburg by force, and seize all that is wanted for the army in a regular and official manner, giving in return its value in Confederate money on a receipt. The storekeepers have doubtless sent away their most valuable goods on the approach of the Confederate army. Much also has been already seized by Ewell, who passed through nearly a week ago. But Moses was much elated at having already discovered a large supply of excellent felt hats, hidden away in a cellar, which he "annexed" at once.

Williamsport Crossing by John Paul Strain depicts Robert E. Lee crossing the Potomac River on June 25th 1863 as his army advanced into Maryland heading towards Pennsylvania.
  I was told this evening the numbers which have crossed the Potomac, and also the number of pieces of artillery. There is a large train of ammunition; for if the army advances any deeper into the enemy's country, General Lee cannot expect to keep his communications open to the rear; and as the staff officers say, "In every battle we fight we must capture as much ammunition as we use." This necessity, however, does not seem to disturb them, as it has hitherto been their regular style of doing business.

Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell
  Ewell, after the capture of Winchester, had advanced rapidly into Pennsylvania, and has already sent back great quantities of horses, mules, wagons, beeves, and other necessaries; he is now at or beyond Carlisle, laying the country under contribution, and making Pennsylvania support the war, instead of poor, used up, and worn-out Virginia. The corps of Generals A. P. Hill and Longstreet are now near this place, all full of confidence and high spirits.

(to be continued...)

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Countdown to Gettysburg: June 27th 1863 -- Arthur Fremantle Joins General Longstreet's HQ Entering Greencastle, PA

  27th June, Saturday.-- Lawley was so ill this morning that he couldn't possibly ride. I therefore mounted his horse a little before daybreak, and started in search of the generals. After riding eight miles, I came up with General Longstreet, at 6.30 A. M., and was only just in time, as he was on the point of moving. Both he and his staff were most kind, when I introduced myself and stated my difficulties. He arranged that an ambulance should fetch Lawley, and he immediately invited me to join his mess during the campaign. He told me (which I did not know) that we were now in Pennsylvania, the enemy's country--Maryland being only ten miles broad at this point. He declared that bushwhackers exist in the woods, who shoot unsuspecting stragglers, and it would therefore be unsafe that Lawley and I should travel alone. 

  General Longstreet is an Alabamian--a thickset, determined-looking man, forty-three years of age. He was an infantry Major in the old army, and now commands the 1st corps d'armee. He is never far from General Lee, who relies very much upon his judgment. By the soldiers he is invariably spoken of as "the best fighter in the whole army." Whilst speaking of entering upon the enemy's soil, he said to me that although it might be fair in just retaliation, to apply the torch, yet that doing so would demoralize the army and ruin its now excellent discipline. Private property is to be therefore rigidly protected.

Lieutenant General James Longstreet
  At 7 A. M. I returned with an orderly (or courier, as they are called,) to the farm house in which I had left Lawley; and after seeing all arranged satisfactorily, about the ambulance, I rode slowly on to rejoin General Longstreet, near Chambersburg, which is a Pennsylvania town, distant twenty-two miles from Hagerstown. I was with M'Laws's division, and observed that the moment they entered Pennsylvania, the troops opened the fences and enlarged the road about twenty yards on each side, which enabled the wagons and themselves to proceed together. This is the only damage I saw done by the Confederates. This part of Pennsylvania is very flourishing, highly cultivated, and, in comparison with the Southern States, thickly peopled. But all the cattle and horses having been seized by Ewell, farm labor had now come to a complete standstill.

Dolly Harris -- Civil War Heroine -- Major General George Edward Pickett and Dolly Harris Greencastle, Pennsylvania – June 1863 by Ron Lesser. Impassioned by her sense of patriotism, Dolly Harris is said to have rushed to the street waving a Union flag at Confederate Major General George Edward Pickett as he and his troops passed through Greencastle on their way to Gettysburg. Fearing Dolly might incite a confrontation, General Pickett saluted the courageous young lady and the "Stars and Stripes" thereby averting an uprising in the street. Recognized as a Civil War heroine, she was the only Franklin County, Pennsylvania woman from that era buried with Military Honors.
  In passing through Greencastle we found all the houses and windows shut up, the natives in their Sunday clothes standing at their doors regarding the troops in a very unfriendly manner. I saw no straggling into the houses, nor were any of the inhabitants disturbed or annoyed by the soldiers. Sentries were placed at the doors of many of the best houses. to prevent any officer or soldier from getting in on any pretense.

(to be continued...)

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Countdown to Gettysburg: June 26th 1863 -- Tillie Pierce Witnesses Ewell's Troops Occupy Gettysburg

Friday, June 26, 1863—Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 3:15 pm

  “The Rebels are coming! The Rebels are coming!” Matilda “Tillie” Pierce looked up from her schoolwork as the shout went from room to room. Rushing to the door, she and the other girls gathered on the front portico of their school. In plain view, marching toward Gettysburg on the Chambersburg Pike, was a dusty mass of Confederate infantry. The teacher, Mrs. Eyster, turned to her students and ordered, “Children, run home as quickly as you can!”

Matilda "Tillie" Pierce

  Tillie ran for her father’s house on Baltimore Street as Confederate riders entered the town. As she reached the front door, men on horseback appeared on her street.

  I scrambled in, slammed shut the door, and hastening to the sitting room, peeped out between the shutters.

What a horrible sight! There they were, human beings! Clad almost in rags, covered with dust, riding wildly, pell-mell down the hill toward our home! Shouting, yelling most unearthly, cursing, brandishing their revolvers, and firing right and left. I was fully persuaded that the Rebels had actually come at last.

Soon the town was filled with infantry, and then the searching and ransacking began in earnest. They wanted horses, clothing, anything and almost everything they could conveniently carry away.
Nor were they particular about asking. Whatever suited them they took. They did, however, make a formal demand of the town authorities, for a large supply of flour, meat, groceries, shoes, hats, and ten barrels of whiskey; or, in lieu of all this, five thousand dollars. But our merchants and bankers had too often heard of their coming, and had already shipped their wealth to places of safety.

  The soldiers rounded up all the horses in town, including the one owned by Tillie’s father. Then they returned to the house and asked for something to eat. Mrs. Pierce scolded them, saying, “Yes, you ought to come back and ask for something to eat after taking a person’s horse!” She nevertheless gave them some food. As Tillie recalled, “Mother always had a kind and noble heart even toward her enemies.”
  Michael Jacobs, a professor at Pennsylvania College, witnessed the arrival of Confederate soldiers. Of the 5,000 troops of Brigadier General John B. Gordon’s brigade, most of them “were exceedingly dirty, some ragged, some without shoes, and some surmounted by the skeleton of what was once an entire hat, affording unmistakable evidence that they stood in great need of having their scanty wardrobe replenished; and hence the eagerness with which they inquired after shoe, hat, and clothing stores, and their disappointment when they were informed that goods of that description were not to be had in town.”
Major General John Brown Gordon
  In exchange for supplies that could be found, the troops often paid with Confederate money—
printed bills not worth the paper they were cut from, unless of course, the South won the war. By evening the raiders had moved all the freight cars near Gettysburg out to the railroad bridge east of town, then set it all on fire. In the morning the infantry was gone, marching twenty-five miles northeast toward York where General Ewell hoped to capture a bridge over the Susquehanna River. The townspeople wondered if they would return. 

Confederate Soldiers Raid a Norther Store (Harper's Weekly)
  Were other Confederates likely to pass through Gettysburg? And where was the Union army?

(to be continued...) 

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Countdown to Gettysburg: June 25th 1863 -- Arthur Fremantle Travels With General Ewell's Corps Into Pennsylvania

25th June, Thursday.--We took leave... and started at 10 A. M. to overtake Generals Lee and Longstreet, who were supposed to be crossing the Potomac at Williamsport. Before we had got more than a few miles on our way. we began to meet horses and oxen, the first fruits of Ewell's advance into Pennsylvania. 

  The weather was cool and showery, and all went swimmingly for the first fourteen miles, when we caught up McLaws's division, which belongs to Longstreet's corps. As my horse about this time began to show signs of fatigue, and as Lawley's pickaxed most alarmingly, we turned them into some clover to graze, whilst we watched two brigades pass along the road. They were commanded, I think, by Semmes and Barksdale, and were composed of Georgians, Mississippians, and South Carolinians. They marched very well, and there was no attempt at straggling; quite a different state of things from Johnston's men in Mississippi. All were well shod and efficiently clothed. 

Brigadier General William Barksdale

Brigadier General Paul Jones Semmes

  In rear of each regiment were from twenty to thirty negro slaves, and a certain number of unarmed men carrying stretchers and wearing in their hats the red badges of the ambulance corps;--this is an excellent institution, for it prevents unwounded men falling out on pretense of taking wounded to the rear. The knapsacks of the men still bear the names of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, or other regiments to which they originally belonged. There were about twenty wagons to each brigade, most of which were marked U. S., and each of these brigades was about 2,800 strong. There are four brigades in McLaws's division. All the men seem in the highest spirits, and were cheering and yelling most vociferously.

  We reached Martinsburg (twenty-two miles) at 6 P. M., by which  time my horse nearly broke down, and I was forced to get off and walk. Martinsburg and this part of Virginia are supposed to be more Unionist than Southern; however, many of the women went through the form of cheering McLaws's division as it passed. I dare say they would perform the same ceremony in honor of the Yankees to-morrow.

  Three miles beyond Martinsburg we were forced by the state of our horses to insist upon receiving the unwilling hospitality of a very surly native, who was evidently Unionist in his proclivities. We were obliged to turn our horses into a field to graze during the night. This was most dangerous, for the Confederate so dire, in spite of his many virtues, is, as a rule, the most incorrigible horse-stealer in the world.

(to be continued...)

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Countdown to Gettysburg: June17th1863 -- James Fremantle Meets President Jefferson Davis, June 17, 1863

  Continuing our countdown towards Gettysburg's 150th anniversary we find Arthur Fremantle arriving in Richmond on this day in 1863 where he meets with Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin who introduces him to President Jefferson Davis:

  17th June, Wednesday.--We reached Petersburg at 3 A. M., and had to get out and traverse this town in carts, after which we had to lie down in the road until some other cars were opened. We left Petersburg at 5 A. M. and arrived at Richmond at 7 A. M., having taken forty-one hours coming from Charleston.

  The scenery near Richmond is very pretty, and rather English-looking. The view of the James river from the railway bridge is quite beautiful, though the water is rather low at present. The weather was extremely hot and oppressive, and, for the first time since I left Havana, I really suffered from the heat.

Richmond, VA taken in 1862

  I kept my appointment with Mr. Benjamin at 7 o'clock. He is a stout dapper little man, evidently of Hebrew extraction, and of undoubted talent. He is a Louisianian, and was Senator for that State in the old United States Congress, and I believe he is accounted a very clever lawyer and a brilliant orator. He told me that he had filled the onerous post of Secretary of War during the first seven months of the secession, and I can easily believe that he found it no sinecure. We conversed for a long time about the origin of Secession, which he indignantly denied was brought about, as the Yankees assert, by the interested machinations of individuals. He declared that, for the last ten years, the Southern statesmen had openly stated in Congress what would take place; but the Northerners never would believe they were in earnest, and had often replied by the taunt, "The South was so bound to, and dependent on the North, that she couldn't be kicked out of the Union."

Judah P. Benjamin

   He asserted that England had still, and always had had it in her power to terminate the war by recognition, and by making a commercial treaty with the South; and he denied that the Yankees really would dare to go to war with Great Britain for doing so, however much they might swagger about it; he said that recognition would not increase the Yankee hatred of England, for this, whether just or unjust, was already as intense as it could possibly be....

  He said the Confederates were more amused than annoyed at the term "rebel," which was so constantly applied to them; but he only wished mildly to remark, that in order to be a "rebel," a person must rebel against some one who has a right to govern him; and he thought it would be very difficult to discover such a right as existing in the Northern over the Southern States.

   In order to prepare a treaty of peace, he said, "It would only be necessary to write on a blank sheet of paper the words 'self-government.' Let the Yankees-accord that, and they might fill up the paper in any manner they chose. We don't want any State that doesn't want us; but we only wish that each State should decide fairly upon its own destiny. All we are struggling for is to be let alone."

   At 8 P. M. Mr. Benjamin walked with me to the President's dwelling, which is a private house at the other end of the town. I had tea there, and uncommonly good tea, too--the first I had tasted in the Confederacy...

President Jefferson Davis

 Mr. Jefferson Davis struck me as looking older than I expected. He is only fifty-six, but his face is emaciated, and much wrinkled. He is nearly six feet high, but is extremely thin, and stoops a little. His features are good, especially his eye, which is very bright, and full of life and humor. I was afterwards told he had lost the sight of his left eye from a recent illness. He wore a linen coat and gray trousers, and he looked what he evidently is, a well-bred gentleman. Nothing can exceed the charm of his manner, which is simple, easy, and most fascinating. 

  He conversed with me for a long time, and agreed with Benjamin that the Yankees did not really intend to go to war with England if she recognized the South; and he said that, when the inevitable smash came--and that separation was an accomplished fact--the State of Maine would probably try to join Canada, as most of the intelligent people in that State have a horror of being "under the thumb of Massachusetts." He added, that Maine was inhabited by a hardy, thrifty, seafaring population, with different ideas to the people in the other New England States. When I spoke to him of the wretched scenes I had witnessed in his own State (Mississippi), and of the miserable, almost desperate situation in which I had found so many unfortunate women, who had been left behind by their male relations; and when I alluded in admiration to the quiet, calm, uncomplaining manner in which they bore their sufferings and their grief, he said, with much feeling, that he always considered silent despair the most painful description of misery to witness, in the same way that he thought mute insanity was the most awful form of madness.

  When I took my leave about 9 o'clock, the President asked me to call upon him again. I don't think it is possible for any one to have an interview with him without going away most favorably impressed by his agreeable, unassuming manners, and by the charm of his conversation. While walking home, Mr. Benjamin told me that Mr. Davis's military instincts still predominate, and that his eager wish was to have joined the army instead of being elected President.

  During my travels, many people have remarked to me that Jefferson Davis seems in a peculiar manner adapted for his office. His military education at West Point rendered him intimately acquainted with the higher officers of the army; and his post of Secretary of War under the old government brought officers of all ranks under his immediate personal knowledge and supervision. No man could have formed a more accurate estimate of their respective merits. This is one of the reasons which gave the Confederates such an immense start in the way of generals; for having formed his opinion with regard to appointing an officer, Mr. Davis is always most determined to carry out his intention in spite of every obstacle. His services in the Mexican war gave him the prestige of a brave man and a good soldier. His services as a statesman pointed him out as the only man who, by his unflinching determination and administrative talent, was able to control the popular will. People speak of any misfortune happening to him as an irreparable evil too dreadful to contemplate....

(to be continued....)

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